The College of Paramedics has informed the BBC that people’s lives are being put at risk because patients are facing unacceptably long waits for a 999 response.
According to data released by the NHS England, the average waits for emergency callouts for health problems (i.e. heart attacks and strokes) are taking almost three times as long as they should in England. Some patients with serious medical conditions are waiting up to nine hours for an ambulance.
Commenting on these figures, Richard Webber, from the College of Paramedics, said:
“We have members who have been working for 20, 30 years, and they have never experienced anything like this before.”
“Everyday services are holding hundreds of 999 calls with no one to send.
“The ambulance service is simply not providing the levels of service they should – patients are waiting too long and that is putting them at risk.”
The data published by the NHS England shows that:
- For Category 1 calls (the most serious category that signals an immediate response to a life-threatening condition), the average response time was nine minutes and 20 seconds in October 2021. The target average is seven minutes.
- The mean response time to Category 2 calls (the second most serious category) – these include stroke and other emergencies – was more than 45 minutes in September 2021, compared with a target average of 18 minutes.
- The average response time to Category 2 calls in October 2021 was 53:54 (the longest time since records began in August 2017), and the 90th centile was 1:56:13.
- Some 121,000 patients had to wait in A&E for at least four hours and 7,059 people had to wait over 12 hours. The highest monthly amount since records began in August 2010.
- Patients waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of September 2021 reached a record of 5.8 million. Once more, this is the highest amount since records began in August 2007.
The data suggests that the NHS are under increased levels of pressure and subsequently, ambulance response times were taking longer as the months progressed. Therefore, putting patients’ lives at risk.
‘Highest level of emergency activity in history’
Last month, ambulance leaders described the ‘highest level of emergency activity in history’ and concerns were raised regarding the time lost to hospital handover delays. In some cases, patients have been told to make their own way to the hospital.
Martin Flaherty, Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) has said:
“The hours lost due to delays in waits of more than 60 minutes rose nearly 650 per cent in six months, from 4,700 in April to 35,000 in September.”
“These delays are in part due to the need to maintain social distancing in EDs alongside the unprecedented pressures in the whole urgent and emergency care system at present.”
Ambulance staff have informed the BBC about their experiences, with one person stating that they felt patients were at risk on almost every shift and another describing the current situation as “horrendous“.
NHS leaders in England said the health service has reached a ‘tipping point’ with nearly nine in ten (88%) saying the demands and pressure on the NHS are unsustainable and is meaning that patients’ safety and care are at high risk.
The latest research and data highlights significant causes for concern for patients as this puts their lives at risk. The ongoing battle of Covid-19 does not help matters and is causing major disruptions including added pressure and demand on the NHS.
It has also been reported that hospitals are having problems trying to discharge patients who are fit to leave the hospital but can’t due to having no social care available to support them within their community. This then causes increasing delays for admitting patients onto words. It’s a vicious circle and the question is, how long can this continue?
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